New perspective

| November 17, 2008

Pam Whitfield is a Chicago-based registered dietician.

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a vein deep in the body and is frequently treated with medications like Coumadin. These drugs help thin the blood so clots don’t develop. The nutrition link here is that many of the foods we eat contain vitamin K, an important fat-soluble vitamin that helps our blood clot. (We need some level of clotting, of course, or we’d bleed to death with the smallest cut!) The key is to have a consistent amount of vitamin K foods each day so the Coumadin works the same, day in and day out. Some of the more common foods high in vitamin K are leafy green vegetables like spinach, asparagus, broccoli and greens. We also find a moderate amount of vitamin K in some fruits like berries and grapes. Spaghetti sauce and bread crumbs also may have a significant amount of vitamin K. A breakdown of the vitamin K content in foods is available at the USDA nutrient database (www.ars.usda.gov). You do not need to eliminate these foods from your diet. You simply should eat the same amounts of the vitamin each day so your medication will work as your doctor intends. Your doctor will schedule regular blood draws to check your clotting time and make sure it’s where it should be.

Many herbal supplements also can act as a blood thinner, so be sure to tell your doctor if you’re taking dietary supplements such as garlic, ginseng or ginger. They may increase the action of the drug, making your blood too thin. Alcohol can have a similar effect, as can some over-the-counter meds like aspirin. Keep your doctor in the loop and follow the directions you are given carefully.

Ronald Rush, M.D., is a family care physician with Highway Health Care and clinical director of Med- Xpress Health Care in Texarkana, Texas.

DVT is a fairly common diagnosis, with more than a million cases a year in the U.S. alone. Blood clots usually are located in the legs. Significant risk factors include a history of congestive heart failure, leg or hip surgeries, varicose veins, use of oral contraceptives and prolonged inactivity. This last risk factor is particularly important to the driver on longer hauls, when the legs have essentially no movement. Unfortunately, in at least half the cases, there are no symptoms in the early stages of thrombosis development. Some of the more common signs or symptoms include a dull ache, tight feeling or pain in the leg; swelling also may be seen. A few practical tips to decrease your risk of DVTs are to make more frequent stops and to walk around the truckstop for five or ten minutes during every break. Try to do more exercise at the end of the day. Walk for 30 minutes to strengthen the leg muscles and improve fitness. Support stockings also may be helpful to improve circulation. Daily aspirin, at 81 to 325 mg, has also been shown to help. If you take oral contraceptives, are over 30 and smoke, you should give serious consideration to stopping both the smoking and the oral contraceptive. Beyond this you need to have a serious conversation with your doctor or a vascular specialist to limit your risk of this life-threatening medical issue.

Linda Dunn is a fitness expert from Tuscaloosa, Ala.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. Most DVTs occur in the lower leg or thigh. However, they also can occur in other parts of the body. A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, blocking blood flow. If you have any symptoms of a DVT you should see your physician immediately. Follow the treatment plan your doctor prescribes, stay active if possible and exercise your lower body muscles (legs particularly) during long trips. With your doctor’s permission, you may be able to do short walks and simple leg stretches to break up long road trips. Very often medication and compression stockings are recommended for treatment to prevent blood from pooling and clotting. Again, do not hesitate to seek a professional medical opinion if you feel you may have this condition. With proper treatment and your doctor’s permission, you should be able to begin a walking program or workout with a certified personal trainer to improve your health.

The advice and opinions expressed herein are only general suggestions. Before you undertake any course of action, you should consult your doctor to determine what steps are right for you. Randall-Reilly Publishing, Truckers News and the experts consulted for these articles do not endorse, warrant or promote in any way the products of any of our sponsors.


Warning Signs for Deep Vein Thrombosis
Source: Mayo Clinic

It’s not uncommon for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) to occur with no symptoms. In fact, in about half of all cases, there are no noticeable symptoms.

When signs and symptoms of DVT do occur, they can include:

  • Swelling in the affected legs; this can include swelling in your ankles and feet.

  • Pain in your legs; this can include pain in your ankles and feet. This pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or a “charley horse.”
  • Redness and warmth over the affected area.
  • Pain or swelling in your arms or neck. This can occur if a blood clot forms in your arms or neck.

Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism warning signs
Sometimes the first sign of deep vein thrombosis can be the chest pain associated with a pulmonary embolism. If this is the case, seek medical help immediately. The warning signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. This pain or discomfort usually gets worse when you take a deep breath or when you cough.

  • Unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath. This is the most common symptom.
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or fainting.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • A sense of anxiety or nervousness.

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